Illustration by Olivia Harvey

Column: Why theater matters for everyone

As art programs around the country are being minimized in favor of STEM and sports, it's time to stick up for theater. Bringing a well-rounded approach to extracurriculars, theater is one of the best activities or hobbies a child can get involved in.

Filled with amazing costumes and fantastic set designs, theater allows creativity in every aspect of production. Children are taught team-building skills and empathy simply by acting in a production and studying their character. As a direct result, children become more well-rounded individuals after being involved in a theater show. 

Everyone played make-believe as children. It's something so natural it has become a fundamental piece of growing up. The grown-up equivalent to this is theater. Theater play has even been used as a therapy tool. Theater should be a safe environment where children can grow and make mistakes without feeling judged or looked down upon. 

Autistic children can benefit greatly from theater therapy with the use of Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter rhythm, which can have a calming influence. The children are put out of their comfort zones, but they are never made uncomfortable or judged for their mannerisms. Even nonverbal children with autism are able to participate in their own way, creating special bonds between the participants and allowing the children to experiment in a safe environment.

Besides taking an active role in theater participation, children and families can benefit simply from seeing a play or musical. Live theater presents a unique challenge because it is limited to the set and a handful of effects, and not the post-editing effects movies or television shows have access to. It has to be done perfectly on the spot for each showing of the production, but amazing costumes and set designs can stimulate audience members.

Being interested in theater goes beyond the acting on stage. There are many people working behind the scenes, and seeing live productions makes people realize how much work goes into a show; this can develop an appreciation. 

Children can thrive when exposed to such creativity and find a passion for the practical effects by watching a production. Just by engaging in a show, people can learn empathy through relating and hearing stories about people who are different from themselves.

Apart from seeing a show, even people who take theater classes or are part of a theater club become more well-rounded. Theater classes can build connections, boost self-esteem and encourage positive risk-taking through group participation. These groups can help children, in particular, find their community and grow into themselves. Musical theater groups go beyond that, giving people not only mental benefits but also physical ones, such as the constant exercise that goes hand in hand with musical theater. 

Positive risk-taking also helps build self-confidence. If a child can master a hard lesson or a situation, their self-confidence will skyrocket. By building more self-confidence, children will continue to take more positive risks and create a cyclical environment for growth and self-development.

Theater allows growth and character building beyond normal after-school activities by giving children a community of like-minded individuals in a positive and safe space. Children can find a creative outlet while enjoying numerous health benefits. It is proven that theater can help with self-confidence and self-esteem, increasing positive risk-taking and decreasing anxiety and mental health symptoms, showing why it is one of the best activities to be involved in. 


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